Simon Harris is set to become Ireland’s youngest ever Taoiseach: But do students care?

Shane O’Loughlin

At the age of 37, Simon Harris is set to become our youngest ever Taoiseach after being appointed party leader of Fine Gael without opposition. The Wicklow native entered the world of politics at only 16, after dropping out of his journalism degree to pursue a promising career in Fine Gael’s youth wing. 

Harris climbed the ranks quickly, taking up two major roles in government since 2016, elected as Minister for Health and most recently Minister for Further Education. Most college students would have already been aware of the young politician for his involvements in third level education, namely the €1,000 reduction of student fees that he oversaw during his tenure.

However, during the stretch of enforced lockdowns throughout the Covid 19 pandemic, Harris’ social media exploits caused him to become one of the most visible politicians in Ireland, colloquially known as the “TikTok Taoiseach.”

It seems that the new Fine Gael leader would be a prime Taoiseach candidate for the students of Ireland. With his predominantly young adult following on TikTok, coupled with his experience and successes as Minister for Further Education, Harris looks to be a more relatable face in politics for those in third level institutions.

Despite all this, after speaking with many students on DCU’s Glasnevin campus on this topic, the stark reality appears to be that the majority are not all that fussed about the upcoming appointment.  

“I didn’t have any strong opinions about who it should be,” said one student.

“I feel bad for not really caring, it should be a celebration that we have younger people in politics…. but people are tired of what’s going on and are a bit like ‘whatever, on to the next fella’.”

This type of response seemed representative of the majority of those in higher education. It is as if there is a desire to care, but students in particular feel so uninspired by the current state of Irish politics. As third year communications student Sarah O Tuama put it, “often turn their ears off” when the topic arises.

There is no obvious sense of ill will or despair at the thought of Simon Harris taking on the mantle of Taoiseach, from DCU students at the very least. 

Matthew Willis, multimedia second year student and Holly Martin, third year education and training student encapsulated the general consensus on campus saying, “I’d be more focused on the issues than who is in charge at the moment…we need to look at things in a positive mindset, and really there is no other option.”

It’s difficult to say whether this is showing a typical youthful disregard for politics or a deeper rooted issue with the government we have today, and the answer is most likely somewhere in between. As a general election inevitably draws near and every government official turns their attention to the latest trends on TikTok in order to secure the student vote, it will be interesting to see if these current feelings of indifference prevail. However in the meantime, we look to our youngest ever Taoiseach to make us care once again.

Shane O’Loughlin